The Elizabethans

Written by A.N. Wilson
Review by Helene Williams

Readers seeking political intrigue, court skullduggery, ceremonial pomp, amorous relationships, or even literary, economic, and philosophical history of the 16th century need look no further. Wilson’s eminently readable history of the Elizabethan era stretches further than Elizabeth I’s reign (1558-1603), to incorporate background and to show the long-term consequences of actions and policies, some of which the world is just moving beyond, four hundred years later. Chapters cover issues ranging from “the Difficulty” (Ireland—its people and religion) to places (Kenilworth, London theatres), to individuals (Sydney, Spenser, Essex, Hakluyt) to events (St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, the Spanish Armada, American explorations). Wilson deftly provides well-documented accounts of the realities of the time, all the while showcasing the growth of England as a naval power, with a booming economy and growth in education, architecture, and the arts. The lives and loves of the at-times indecisive and parsimonious Elizabeth—from Leicester to Raleigh to Essex—are portrayed in context, showing them as people and as political beings. Wilson superbly presents a multifaceted, wide-ranging era that connects with many aspects of the present day.